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Mr. Jenkinson said, that although he considered the game laws in an objectionable point of view, yet he was so averse to any alteration taking place in a system so long established, especially at a time like the present, when every deviation from legal custom ought scrupulously to be guarded against, that he must oppose the motion. He therefore moved, That the House do now adjourn. Upon this the House divided : Tellers.
Mr. Curwen s
27. Noes Mr. Wallace
( Mr. Buxton
50. So it passed in the negative. After this, Mr. Curwen consented to withdraw his motion, and the House agreed to go into a committee of the whole House, on that day se'nnight, to take the said acts into consideration.
On the 11th of April Mr. Curwen obtained leave to bring in a bill for repealing certain statutes relating to the game, and for the better preservation thereof, and also for extending the privilege of killing game, to the owners and occupiers of land. On the motion for the second reading of the bill, on the 29th, Captain Berkeley moved, That it be read a second time upon that day three months. The bill was also opposed by Sir Richard Sutton, who stated, that in Germany game could be bought and sold at the public market by those who were qualified, and recommended the same regulation in this country.
Mr. Fox said, that he was a very warm friend to the principle of this measure, though some of the clauses of the bill might be thought exceptionable. He wished to abstain from general arguments, he hoped however the House would consider what the honourable baronet had advanced with regard to the German laws, as totally inapplicable to the question. What, he asked, was there in the British code to resemble in the least the laws of Germany? He was surprised to hear any thing like the introduction of them into this kingdom. The arguments, however, of the honourable baronet as far as they were right, most assuredly went to the fundamental repeal of the game laws. He said, that in Germany, and he recommended the same regulation to be adopted here, game could be bought and sold at the public market by those who were qualified. How then did the matter stand? The lord of the manor might employ a game-keeper to kill his game; but the lord of the manor must sell it. He was firmly persuaded, that to give the land-holder his just right over the game on the grounds which he occupied, would be the best means of preserving the game. The land-holder had an in
disputable right to the game on his ground, and much more so, assuredly, than the man who obtains a fictitious right to kill game, by taking out his qualification. With regard to poaching, he confessed he was no friend to it, but he would not go so far as the worthy baronet, and say, that he would have no mercy for poachers. But, if the worthy baronet entertained such an idea of the criminality of a poacher, a person whose situation might be some alleviation of his guilt, what did he say to those by whom he was employed ? Were they not, in a moral point of view, equally, if not more culpable in inciting him to the violation of the laws of his country? He never could look upon the breach of the laws with more horror, as far as related to the poor, than he did with respect to the rich; who, in many instances, conceived that they were free from guilt, as long as they escaped with impunity. When gentlemen called for vengeance against these unfortunate men, he could not look upon those with complacency who trafficked for boroughs, and purchased seats in the House of Commons. He could not persecute the poor poacher with indignant rage, without manifesting his detestation at the conduct of many of his superiors. prevent the evil, the remedy, he maintained, was in the principle of the bill; for he insisted that, conformably to the doctrine of the most eminent writers on the criminal jurisprudence of this country, the game laws were not only ineffectual, but disgraceful to the nation. It was shocking that a penal law should exist, which was daily broken, and without the possibility of being enforced. And what was the consequence? The consequence was obvious; it increased the number of persons acting against law, who were, from their bad habits, the more liable to fall into other offences. Take away, therefore, the corner stone of these crimes, the temptation to the private sale of game; for in proportion as the laws were infringed with impunity, so did crimes invariably increase. This law, so often broken, added considerably to the melancholy catalogue of criminals. If he were asked, would he repeal the game laws without any substitution ? he wonld answer, certainly, rather than they should exist, without any amondment. But the substitute was provided by the bill, by making game private property. A reciprocal desire to oblige prevailed throughout this country between the tenant and landlord; and if the present bill, properly amended, was passed, gentlemen would not find themselves more restrained than they were at present in their amusement. He again pressed the House, if the preservation of game was its object, to give the land-holder an interest in its protection, and he called on the right honourable gentleman,
(Mr. Windham) to say whether in the great sporting county where he occasionally resided, it was usual for farmers to warn gentlemen off their grounds? The reverse, he believed, was the fact. Thus was the game, he insisted, diminished in consequence of the acts passed by our ancestors for its protection, as the farmers were indifferent as to the persons by whom it was destroyed. The vote he should give that night, certainly would be for the second reading of the bill, which might be amended in the committee, and lie over to another session, until it was maturely considered by the members of the House.
The House divided on the motion, “ That the bill be now read a second time: Tellers.
48. The motion that the bill be read that day three months was then put and carried.
DUTIES ON LEGACIES OF PERSONAL ESTATES.
ON N the order of the day for taking into consideration the
report of the committee on the bill for repealing certain duties on legacies and shares of personal estates, and granting other duties thereon, Mr. Pitt moved, That the said report be now taken into consideration; as an amendment to which, Mr. Alderman Newnham moved, that it be taken into consideration on this day four months.
Mr. Fox said, he should concur in the motion for postponing this bill. As to the time, perhaps he might differ from the worthy magistrate who made the motion. With respect to the bill itself, he had considered it from the very beginning to be a measure altogether impracticable in the present state of the country. He did not think that any clause could be introduced into the bill which would do
away the objections to it; for the whole principle of the bill was radically unjust. He was exceedingly sorry, however, that he had been prevented by indisposition from attending when the bill was in the committee, and examining the different clauses as they were proposed, for he now professed himself
incapable of understanding them. Objections, however, to the whole bill were too obvious to pass unnoticed. Every species of commercial property must by this bill be laid hold of and exposed by government. He was told formerly, that this inconvenience might be avoided. His answer was, “ that is morally impossible;" for the very idea of making a man pay a profit to government for his property ad valorem, must necessarily imply that the value of that property shall be ascertained. This must also necessarily make public the value of all the bequests in the kingdom. It was not necessary for him to dilate upon this subject. This ascertainment of the value of every thing hereafter to be bequeathed, must necessarily depend upon a balance between debts and credits. Now, there might, and there must be, cases in which this system would be attended with great injustice. It was said, that as we cannot ascertain the value of a person's property, it shall be taken according to the profits afterwards received. The House should consider the tendency of this system. There must be thus annually laid before parliament the whole state of our commercial prosperity and adversity. A man might lose upon one branch and gain upon another; he might have a partner in the one case, and he might be concerned alone in the other, and he might bequeath a legacy to the partner who had sustained this loss; then there must be a deduction of six per cent. out of such bequest. This, perhaps, was an injustice which was not intended, but it was an evil that was inseparable from the very nature of the bill, and therefore could not be avoided. Now, he would ask, how it was possible for a man to give an account ad valorem of the profits of a trade complicated with a thousand circumstances? And how this account was to be made to government without the whole of the circumstances of that trade being made known to the public? In short, made known to every man in the world who should choose to inquire into them? With regard to the practicability of estimating the value of property under this bill, suppose, for instance, a certain capital left between six persons, the interest of which only was to be enjoyed by one at a time: suppose it should go to the uncle in the first instance, the brother in the second, the nephew in the third, until the whole capital be made absolutely in the sixth person in succession. How could the claim be made on the part of government? If it be laid upon the capital in the first instance, it must reduce the value of the interest of the legacy to the first annuitant, while a calculation must be made of the lives of the other parties, which could never be precisely determined, on account of various accidents. In case of any contingency happening to
the second or third annuitant after the death of the first, if restitution be made to the third or fourth, what restitution could be made to the first annuitant ? Or how was any restitution provided for ?
There were many other objections to the provisions of the bill. It was well observed by the worthy magistrate, that a great hardship would be cast on children who had the misfortune to be of illegitimate birth. How was this to be managed ? Was there to be a power to institute an inquiry into the legitimacy of the children? Was there to be an inquiry into the legality of the marriage of the father, or the grandfather. Had government that power? If they had, what a scene of confusion and intolerable vexation would follow from the exercise of that power! If this bill was consented to, there would be other taxes of the same kind brought forward, and no good argument could then be found for oppəsing them. Admitting the principle of this to be just, he could not see azy good reason why it should not be extended; for what was this but a mere shift to levy a duty on all species of bequeathed property? If this should succeed, he would dare to say the mode would be deemed an eligible one. He then took notice of property in the funds. There was, indeed, a solitary act of parliament which recognized the practice of recurring to it as an object of taxation. But he did not think that just; for when we funded a debt we contracted with the holder of it, that he should enjoy it without diminution by a tax while he lived, and that he should bequeath it to his posterity. He thought, therefore, there was a considerable objection to that measure; but there was a great deal more to this. He thought, also, that there was a great deal of force in the objection of the worthy magistrate about not bringing forward the other bill with regard to the tax on landed property. He saw no good reason why they should be separated, but many why they should be kept together, and chiefly that the House might see the real extent of the plan upon this subject; and by applying it to landed property, the impracticability of doing any thing like justice in the execution of it would be more striking.
He lamented, indeed, that the House was so indifferently attended; but that was a thing which he had reason to lament upon subjects of greater moment, even than the present. He did not see any necessity of postponing this bill for four months; four weeks would be sufficient for the House to make up its mind on the subject. But both the bills should be debated together, and the House ought not to pass this without knowing whether they could ever pass the other. He had many objections to the particular provisions of the bill, but